GOP Vows To Push SCOTUS Vote As Trump Spreads Misinformation About RBG’s Dying Wish

The Senate currently has the power to force a vote on Trump’s prospective SCOTUS nominee before the election — and Republicans’ urgency to do so is forcing Mitch McConnell to face his own hypocrisy.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) talks to reporters following the weekly Republican policy luncheon in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill September 15, 2020 in Washington, DC. | Getty Images
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) talks to reporters following the weekly Republican policy luncheon in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill September 15, 2020 in Washington, DC. | Getty Images

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed that the GOP-led Senate will vote on President Trump’s nominee to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died of cancer complications on Friday. McConnell has defended his decision to push through a nominee during an election year, contradicting his successful efforts to block a vote for President Obama’s nominee to replace late Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016. 

Ginsburg’s replacement on the country’s highest court will have a momentous effect on how its policy-shaping cases are decided. A Trump nominee could cement the court’s conservative majority at 6-3, putting major issues including immigration, reproductive rights, health care, and voting access on the line for generations to come.

During a Monday Senate floor speech, McConnell claimed there was enough time to confirm a new justice some 40 days before the November election, and listed a few instances in which justices, including John Paul Stevens and Sandra Day O’Connor, had been confirmed over shorter periods of time. He also claimed that 2020 is completely different from 2016, when he refused to put Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland up for a vote, because back then there was a “divided government.”

On the night of Ginsburg’s death, McConnell said the Senate would vote on Trump’s justice nominee and urged Republicans to “keep your powder dry” and not rush to comment on whether they’d vote on a justice nominee.

The statement set off a wave of criticism over McConnell’s hypocrisy, breaking the precedent he set by refusing to vote on Garland after Scalia’s death in February 2016. The seat was left vacant for more than a year until President Trump’s nominee Justice Neil Gorsuch filled it.

On Monday, President Trump baselessly suggested that Ginsburg’s dying wish wasn’t true. NPR reported that Ginsburg told her granddaughter in the days before her death, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed."

"I don't know that she said that, or was that written out by Adam Schiff and Schumer and Pelosi,” Trump told “Fox and Friends” Monday. “I would be more inclined to the second ... But that sounds like a Schumer deal or maybe a Pelosi or Shifty Schiff."

The president has said he’d prefer a confirmation vote before the election “because there’s a lot of work to be done.” He has also said he’s vetting five women for the job and that he’ll likely announce a nominee by Friday or Saturday. 

Can The Senate Push Through Trump’s Nominee?

Though Democratic lawmakers have demanded that Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat not be filled until after the election in November, the Senate currently has the power to push through Trump’s prospective SCOTUS nominee. However, it’s not yet clear if the Senate will have the majority of votes needed to do so. 

Since Senate Republicans have a slim 53-to-47 majority, Democrats would need only four Republicans to oppose the vote. There is also the possibility of a tie, but Vice President Mike Pence would have the tie-breaking vote. 

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), whose approval of Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 has damaged her reelection odds this year, said on Saturday that, while she would support another Trump-nominated justice, she didn’t believe the decision should be made during an election year. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said in a Sunday statement that she would not vote to confirm Trump’s nominee before the November election. The president has already retweeted "No thanks!" on a Murkowski campaign ad and called out Collins during a rally.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), who has historically been a critic of Trump, announced Tuesday that he would support a floor vote for Ginsburg’s replacement.

“My liberal friends have over many decades gotten very used to the idea of having a liberal court but that's not written in the stars,” Romney told reporters following the announcement of his decision.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said in 2016 that a Supreme Court vacancy should not be filled until after the election during an election year—but he backtracked on his prior statement on Saturday.

“The two biggest changes regarding the Senate and judicial confirmations that have occurred in the last decade have come from Democrats,” Graham said on Twitter.

“Harry Reid changed the rules to allow a simple majority vote for Circuit Court nominees dealing out the minority,” he continued. “Chuck Schumer and his friends in the liberal media conspired to destroy the life of Brett Kavanaugh and hold that Supreme Court seat open. In light of these two events, I will support President @realDonaldTrump in any effort to move forward regarding the recent vacancy created by the passing of Justice Ginsburg.”

What If Joe Biden Wins the Presidency And The Senate Is Flipped?

The New York Times reported that Congress typically reconvenes after Election Day for a lame-duck session, and newly elected lawmakers are not seated until the new Congress convenes in January.

This means Republicans would remain in control of the Senate until January, which is when a new president would assume office. So even after the election decides who wins the Senate and presidency, Trump’s SCOTUS nominee could still be confirmed to the court.